In 1620 a small ship set out across The Atlantic with passengers intent on building new lives in an unknown land. In the late 1700's and early 1800's people moved inland from the settlements and towns of the Eastern seaboard intent on building new lives and establishing new settlements in untamed lands of the Louisiana Purchase. In the 1820's, responding to a recruiting effort by the Mexican government, people moved to the province of Texas to establish new lives and settlements. In the 1840's responding to the recruiting effort that was Manifest Destiny, people walked across a continent to build new lives and new settlements in unknown lands.
Would you have been one of these people? Would you have been willing to give up the comforts and conveniences of an established lifestyle to head out to parts unknown and risks unmeasured?
In 1947 a decision was made to turn a temporary military research base into a permanent facility and to build a town where none had previously existed. Advertisements were placed in newpapers across the country recruiting people from all walks of life to come to an unheard of place in a state that most people thought not to be part of the United States to help build and populate a town that did not actually exist. To do so, they gave up established lives of comfort and convenience for a very uncertain future.
Would you have been one of those people?
Just as the scientists at the Lab push the boundaries of knowledge and pioneer new areas of research, so, too, the people of Los Alamos have been those in whom prevail the pioneering spirit of courage, determination, and willingness to accept risk.
Los Alamos is not, nor has it ever been, a place suitable to everyone. Today, it still requires the same pioneering spirit that created the town in the first instance. To come to Los Alamos for the purpose of establishing a life and a business is a high risk venture. But such ventures can be successful.
14 years ago a young couple on their honeymoon happened to drive through Los Alamos. They fell in love with the place and when they returned to the big city they were from they decided they would move to Los Alamos. With their life savings, all their possesions, and an idea for a business they returned. Neither ever worked for The Lab, The County, The Hospital, or The School. There was no Job waiting for them. With little more than raw courage, determination, hard work, and a deep love of Los Alamos they have managed to build a successful business here. Today, this is a successful local business with 20% of its sales income generated from beyond the county line.
There are others -- the travel agency that does 90% of its business beyond the county line; the architectural firm which does a similar amount. Both of these were started by LAHS grads several years ago. And there are those who are just starting out -- Caldera Pharmaceuticals comes to mind -- whose efforts, commitment, determination, and resilience will pay off in time over time as they grow and expand to become a fixture of the Los Alamos economy.
These are the kind of people Los Alamos still needs. Los Alamos has sat on it fat assets for 40 years and those assets have dwindled. As in 1947, we will have to recruit like crazy. We need new store owners providing a variety of goods and services. We will need young entrepreneurs who will start enterprises in all sectors of the economy -- manufacture, trade, tourism, retail. We will need the professional, the tradesman, the craftsman, the artist, the shop-keeper; the independent, self-reliant spirits. We need to push outwards the limits of our own production possibilities frontier. In so doing, Los Alamos can become more self-reliant and self-contained sending the results of our own imagination and industry into the Wider World rather than just sucking in what the Wider World has to offer for the convenience of our sweet little selves.
Los Alamos will need patience and commitment to the long haul. From small nuts mighty ponderosas grow, but it takes time. Nor will Los Alamos ever be an urban/burban center of retail activity. There will always be a certain degree of "inconvenience" to living here just as there is in any small town. The general population will have to be cut from the same burlap.
Do you fit the profile? Or is Los Alamos simply a pit stop on your career path? Are you a builder and pioneer at heart willing to put more into Los Alamos than you get, or are you more interested in what you can get out of Los Alamos while you are stuck here?
The truth of Los Alamos is this: You really gotta love Los Alamos to live in Los Alamos and truly be happy in doing so.